One of the biggest barriers people have when trying to create something or take up a new hobby is time. A typical creative person is likely juggling a day job, relationships, basic needs like sleeping, and a mountain of things-they’d-like-to-maybe-do-one-day.
I empathize… to a point. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all of the things we can or should be doing every day.
But here’s the thing: I’m willing to bet you waste enough time that you could have had that Big Important Project DONE already.
Sound harsh? Well, maybe, but there’s a silver lining – if you’re wasting that much time, think about the productivity POWERHOUSE you’ll be when you learn to stop.
Sound better? Here’s a three-step method to making the time to do pretty much anything.
Step One: Identify your time thieves.
For the next few days – I recommend about 3 minimum – write down how you spend your time. Do this retroactively, and be meticulous about it. If you spent 15 minutes on Facebook and 45 minutes on whatever you were working on, write down that 15 minutes on Facebook. If you have an hour lunch break at work and you spend it playing phone games, write that down. If you spent several hours reading emails… yup, write it down.
Got that list? Good. Write a total amount of time for each. If you’re really ambitious, make a pie chart out of it.
Start a new list: Write down everything you WANT to spend your time on. Number it, with your highest priority things at the top – this could be a job, for instance, or sleeping.
Compare how you spent your time with your ideals – how does the time you spend doing things compare with the value you perceive in those tasks? Is there anything that makes one list and not the other?
Step Two: Figure out your “why”
In order to stick with a project, you have to have the motivation to put the amount of work in to get it done. Which is to say you have to care more about finishing the project than you care about NOT doing the work for the project. Similarly, you have to care more about finishing the project than you care about spending the necessary time on other activities… actively, rather than passively.
Every moment you spend doing something else is a moment you’re prioritizing that other thing over your project.
And sometimes that makes sense, but a lot of the time it’s simply because we don’t have a strong enough why to refer to when it’s time to make that choice.
Why do you want to do something? What’s the benefit? Will you be okay with yourself if you never do it? Will you be ashamed?
Why do you care?
Write it down. Frame it, if you can, and display it prominently. Remind yourself of it before you go to bed, and when you wake up. If you meditate, meditate on it, and spin it into a daily affirmation.
In other words: Do whatever you can to internalize it.
Step Three: Make the time.
In her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert compares creative work to an affair. Among other similarities, one specific commonality she mentions is this: for both, there is always time. A few minutes here or there to rendezvous, weekend trips away from the family to spend with your love, and so forth.
Part of the reason we’ve assessed our times and internalized WHY we care about our project is to help us find the time and to establish why giving those spare moments to the project in the first time. It doesn’t take an iron will to work on something we WANT to be doing – it just takes caring enough about it that we can find the time in our schedule.
Now that you’ve done both of those things – find the time in your schedule and stick to it. If you want it enough, get up earlier, pack your lunch so you don’t need to leave your employee lounge during your work lunch break, hire a babysitter for an hour a week so you can hide in your studio and get to work.
This is going to be easier for you if you’re a writer, perhaps, but trust me, even if you’re a crafter working on a large, mostly immobile project, you have the time to do it. So – find it. Stick it in your calendar, then refuse to take your phone into your workspace. Sneak away after dinner while someone else is doing dishes and do it for a few minutes at a time. Anything you can do to rendezvous with the thing you want to get done.
Then you will get it done. Then you can do it for the next thing.
You’ll never do everything. But you can do a lot if you focus and make the time.